Yesterday morning, I watched an interview with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in which he complained of Republicans’ fixation on “phony scandals.” According to Mr. Carney, if those horrible Republicans would just focus on the economy instead of “phony scandals” then it truly would be morning in America once again.
I thought Carney’s comments rather obtuse but brushed it off as part of the Obama administration’s continuing quest to change the subject away from anything unflattering. Lately, Carney finds himself forced to say lots of things that he ordinarily wouldn’t even attempt to utter with a straight face.
It appears I was wrong.
Evidently, the “phony scandal” angle is part of an ongoing administration campaign that goes straight to the top.
Any suspicion as to whether or not this is true was quickly confirmed yesterday when President Obama, during a speech at Knox College in Illinois, described the current situation in Washington as “an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals.”
So what does this “endless parade of distractions” include?
First, there is Benghazi. I’d challenge the president to tell the families of the four Americans who died there that any investigation as to why things went so horribly wrong is nothing more than a “distraction.” Next, there is the IRS scandal. Giving the appearance that your administration intentionally used the IRS as a tool to silence political critics is really difficult to brush off as a mere “distraction.” Finally, spying on reporters and even trying to argue in court papers that one reporter might actually be a criminal seems pretty serious on the face of things. If anything, it rises above mere “distraction” level.
A beautiful woman strolling in a bikini through a sports bar might create a “distraction.” I’d say the list Obama is dealing with is far more serious.
Presidents before Obama faced accusations of unethical and even criminal behavior during their administrations. Ulysses S. Grant ran a pretty shoddy operation and so did Warren G. Harding. Ronald Reagan had Iran-Contra to deal with in his second term, and Bill Clinton faced impeachment over his unfortunate dalliance with an intern.
The mother of all “distractions’ was Watergate resulting in Richard Nixon’s resignation from office.
I’m currently working on a book about presidents so I thought I’d detour from my research and focus on various presidents’ reactions to controversy during their administrations.
So far, I can’t find one who was ever bold enough to call each of these events a “phony scandal” as a strategy to make them all disappear.
Granted, there is the Clinton case, where he appeared on television, wagged his finger at the camera, and denied everything only to be betrayed later by a blue dress, but that’s as close as I can find.
Most try to divert attention to other matters. During Watergate, for example, Nixon addressed the situation and then said, “I must now turn my full attention, and I shall do so once again to the larger duties of this office.”
Obama is trying to do something similar but with a big twist. He’s “pivoting” to the economy for about the twelfth time, and he’s trying desperately to keep attention away from all the unpleasantness by trying to discredit it all with talking points.
His approach is like nothing we’ve seen from earlier presidents. The closest parallel I can find is the Wizard of Oz.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain . . . .